Stay Tuned/1 June 1997

From Eccentric Flower


stay tuned

1 June 1997
(Sunday Papers)

No images this week, partially because I didn't write this column on the computer with the scanner (due to technical difficulties), and partially because none of these clippings really seems to be "image-dependent."

The Continuing Cereal

Team Cheerios
3 Delicious O's Teamed Up For A Taste Your Family Will Love!
Nutritious Whole Grain Cereal Sweetened with Brown Sugar and Frosting

What this is: the standard model Cheerio, plus a darker version which is either made from a whole grain or has brown sugar in its mix, I don't care which. Both of these are sprayed lightly with sugar. Then, for good measure, they throw in some of the execrable Frosted Cheerios, which have a coating of sugar so thick it actually turns them a pale white color, with a pitted surface.

But remember: it "Provides 9 Vitamins and Minerals!" And builds strong bodies twelve different ways, no doubt.

I regard plain Cheerios as being fairly edible, and not especially bad for you as cereals go, but the problem is that everyone else does too, which puts General Mills in a precarious position when practicing line extension on the Cheerios brand. They want to introduce sweeter cereals without compromising their reputation of the main brand.

I'm convinced that Frosted Cheerios are a feint - that they're meant to be an easy target. They're a distraction. The box to watch is these Team Cheerios, which is using the Wheaties-style sports imagery to mask a tooth-rotter, or the Multi-Grain Cheerios, one of the best stealth jobs in a long time. (Don't believe me? I'll let you check out the sugar content of Multi-Grain Cheerios for yourself.)

Note that I don't particularly object to companies marketing sticky cereals - they're playing to their audience, and if you're fool enough to buy them, that's your fault. But I dislike misrepresentation, and many of these "healthy" pitch cereals are anything but.

In ancillary cereal news, Quaker Oats has finally begun print advertising for its new Cap'n Crunch Bars and Crunch Berries Bars, probably buoyed by the success of Kellogg's brand-name packages of Rice Krispies Treats (not to mention RKT cereal - does anyone besides me find it amusing that the line between cereal and snack food blurs a little more every year?)

Anyway, a hapless member of the Sunday Papers research team tried these a few weeks back, and she said they were utterly horrible; they tasted like stale Cap'n Crunch that had been fastened together with library paste. This woman is a devotee of (shall we go for a generic name here?) bar cookies of puffed rice held together with butter and marshmallow, so I trust her opinion.

Actually, despite the fact that I feel Cap'n Crunch and its ilk are among the worst cereals of all time, and despite this nasty product (it even looks icky in the package illustrations, and those are designed to be as flattering as possible), I am actually feeling kindly toward the Quaker people this week, for several reasons.

First off, they link to their corporate site right on the front page of their consumer site. ([2007:] No longer true. See comments at end.)

Second, the Quisp web site is really hilarious. I laughed my way through it, even though I think Quisp is basically pink Cap'n Crunch. For that matter, their main consumer site (above) isn't bad either.

Third, their limited-time-only "All Berries" cereal is well-packaged (the idea is that there was an accident at the packaging plant, so the box has deliberate thumb smudges, ink and registration errors, etc).

Fourth, they happen to make my current favorite cereal, Quaker Oat Squares. Kinda like Life cereal but with more stamina against milk. (I included that so you can balance my cereal rants against what I actually eat.)

Did I really just write thirteen paragraphs about cereal? Let's move on. Quickly.

Strange Bedfellows Dept.

Help Dep Support MADD in the
Drive Sober & In Style Sweepstakes.
Save on Dep and enter for a chance to win a '97 Mazda Miata.

Memo to the Dep people: As much as I endorse Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and as happy as I am that you have the good sense to endorse them also, any promotional tie-in with MADD is in somewhat dubious taste, and this is a particularly flimsy connection.

I mean, think about the message conveyed: Not only should you drive sober, but you should be certain to always drive with immaculately styled (if somewhat sticky-looking) hair.


I may be developing a vendetta against Bristol-Myers Squibb. First there was their Women's Link web site (read here for more about that). Now there's this Vagistat ad. But neither of them seems to bother my friends as much. So maybe something about them just pushes the wrong button with me.

Anyway, I'm not arguing against Vagistat. Yeast infections are no fun; you could make an argument for them as one of the nation's most prevalent chronic health problems, and it seems to me that more and better over-the-counter treatments for same can only be a Good Thing. But I think billing it with the tag line
VAGISTAT-1 ... One real victory for women
is over the top and slightly offensive.

Madeline Albright is a real victory for women. Pay equity, that would be a real victory. Being somehow able to not get yeast infections at all, now that would be something.

I guess the problem is that using a sense of group identity - any group, be it feminist or Italian or Boy Scout or who knows what - as a tool for hawking product will always rub me the wrong way. But this may be a result of my own twisted psychology: I don't recall ever feeling as if I belonged to any particular group.

So never mind.

News In Zipper Technology

The nice people at Dow Chemical think we're stupid.

First they gave us the Ziploc bags with the yellow and blue coloring in the strip, ostensibly to make the bags easier to close properly. Now they have come out with a zipper that is not only color-coded, it has little teeth, so you can hear it clicking shut if you do it right.

Are Ziploc bags really that hard to close?

Oh, and the Ziploc site would like you to know that this year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Ziploc bag. I propose they celebrate by dumping the little finger with the smile and the chef's hat. Can you believe somebody got paid to think of that ....

The Naked Lunch

Didja ever wonder why no one ever eats peanut butter sandwiches in peanut butter ads?

No, seriously. Every time you see a peanut butter ad, if there's peanut butter on the bread, it's spread on a single slice of bread.

It's cause a sandwich wouldn't let you see the peanut butter, silly!

Actually, this ad I have here is notable for other reasons besides that slim excuse for commentary. It's an ad for both Hershey's syrup and Reese's peanut butter (remember, Reese's is a Hershey brand - this is not a crossover). It has two kids drawing on the sidewalk and the caption

"Don't Stop the Fun When You Break For Lunch."

The "lunch" in question is the aforementioned peanut-butter-on-one-slice and a glass of chocolate milk. Mmm, good.

There's also the logo for the Children's Miracle Network; the kids in the ad are supposed to be drawing a larger version of it, but it's too clean; they were either using a stencil or more likely the whole thing was added by computer.

Oh, and there's an "As Always ... A Fat Free Food" bubble. Doesn't say which product. Must go with the syrup, cause that peanut butter sure as heck isn't.

But now I'm just nitpicking, and I try to avoid doing that.

Inflation (Of the Nickel)

Our final item for today. This one's a little off my beaten path, but I couldn't resist it.

Here's an ad for a set of "Genuine U.S. Nickels of the 20th Century." It offers four coins: A liberty head nickel, a buffalo nickel, one of the "silver" wartime nickels, and what they bill as the "Jefferson Nickel" (i.e. the current model).

The price of the set is 4.95 (plus 1.95 shipping and handling, which is a little excessive for four nickels in a cardboard mount, but not much).

Nowhere in the ad is the condition of the coins mentioned, only their age. Now, I'm no numismatist (I don't even know if I spelled that right), but I know that buffalo nickels are common enough that one has wandered into my pocket change at least once in my life, and that the war nickels (which were about 30% silver) surface every now and then also. I also know that in the case of one of these coins, it would pretty much have to be in mint condition (and that means never used for commerce, folks) to have any sort of significant value.

Though they assure you that the specimens selected will all be at least fifty years old, I should think that the value of even a 1947 regular-old-nickel which has travelled for any length of time in anyone's pocket would be precisely five cents.

And we won't discuss the value of a "Jefferson Nickel," even one in mint condition.

The fact that most legitimate coin ads stress the condition of the coins highly, and this one makes no mention of condition at all, leads me to believe that you get a set of four heavily-trafficked nickels from someone's change jar, and that any market value above and beyond the base rate of twenty cents is purely coincidental.

Would someone who knows this field tell me if I'm off base on this one?

Boy, that's a lot of material for one week. Well, we've had a lot of holidays with no ads recently, so I guess I had excess venom stored up.

Hindsight: 23 February 2007

The business about commending Quaker Oats for having a corporate website which was easily reached from the consumer one was related to my rant on "web schizophrenia," which has been placed in this sequence as the previous column. Unfortunately I must report that Quaker Oats has regressed since then; the URL given above is the consumer site and it offers no path to the corporate site, nor does it acknowledge that Quaker Oats is a PepsiCo holding.

The hilarious Quisp site is gone and the URL has been subsumed into the Quaker site.

I have no idea which of the various nasty Cap'n Crunch products are still extant, and I'm not going to do the legwork right now to check, but I do know that Multi-Grain Cheerios are still around, and that they still have six times the amount of sugar as normal Cheerios per serving. (Check the boxes if you don't believe me.) Frosted Cheerios are still around too, alas, with thirteen times the amount of sugar as the stock-model Cheerio - but unlike the Multi-Grain, the Frosted model is honest about it.

As noted in the schizophrenia piece, Ziploc is no longer owned by Dow, who sold all their consumer-level brands to S.C. Johnson not long after these articles were written. Also, they have long since ditched the stupid pointing-finger mascot. And I no longer am as hostile to an easy-to-close zipper bag as I once was (I'm getting either older or clumsier or more impatient; you decide which.)

I am still waiting for someone who knows something about coin collecting to tell me what they think of my theory on the Four Nickels For Seven Dollars.

and now back to our program

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